Lot #167 - Unique Block of Four & Largest Used Multiple

The Full Story

Before 1985 there were no used blocks of the 2 Rigsbank Skilling known in philatelic circles and the largest multiple in any condition was a block of four, as two unused such blocks were known to exist. Therefore it was quite sensational when the Danish auction house Globalia in September 1985 in Copenhagen at the Bella Center auctioned a used block of four from the Thiele printing. It had just been found and was referred to as “The Find of the Century”.

Their estimation at the auction was DKK 200.000 – 400.000 and it was sold somewhat above the low estimate.

The Phone Bid from the Tunnel

At the time there was a very active Danish dealer, Finn Nielsen, who was among other things well-known in the trade for being the first to frequently use mobile telephones. He used to visit auction viewings bringing along a big car battery, which at the time was necessary for keeping his telephone going. That was another world compared to today’s with iPhones and the like in every man’s hand.

Mr. Nielsen felt that the fantastic discovery of this unique block had potential and asked the auction house to call him up for telephone bidding at the auction. So they did, but unfortunately for him as well as for the auction house, he was on a trip in his car when they called him. He received the call and just started to bid when he approached a tunnel. In there the connection broke and when he was out of the tunnel, the unique block of four was sold to somebody else well under what he was prepared to pay.

The buyer at the auction is unknown to me, but soon the block found its way to Dr. Gene Scott’s collection of classic Denmark, which was awarded three Large Gold Medals in the coming years with this block as one of the highlights. He exhibited the block for the first time in 1987 at HAFNIA 87.

The Negotiations

In the 1980s and 1990s the great Danish-American collector Peer Lorentzen built the best collection of classic Denmark to ever exist. He and the American preacher Gene Scott were the two biggest buyers at the Christian Andersen auctions arranged by Postiljonen in 1988 & 1989, both attending the first one personally and at the same time being appointed Honorary Postiljons. They became fierce competitors at exhibitions in the years to come.

At a MonacoPhil exhibition of 100 World Rarities in the mid-1990s Peer approached me as he knew I had a good relation with Gene Scott and asked me if I could help him to buy three specific items from the Scott collection. One of them was this used block of four. As he already owned the extremely beautiful unused block of four of 2 RBS from the Andersen collection, I was a bit surprised and said “I did not think you wanted that”. His answer came quickly but thoughtfully: “I have seen the block in Gene Scott’s collection and he has made a very nice type of passe-partout mounting, being unique and the largest used multiple recorded, I have decided that I want it”. The other two items were the famous Birth Certificate with an unused block of six of 4 RBS and the fantastic 4 RBS Ferslew 1 in a strip of four on cover. All three unique and important first issue items that he wanted in order to make his collection absolutely outstanding.

Several years later I was made aware by Peer’s son, Mark Lorentzen, that Peer’s strategy was too add to his collection what he considered the three best items from the collection of Gene Scott, and thereby eliminating his greatest competitor for the National Grand Prix at HAFNIA 2001. He even went so far as having the personalized license plate “2001” on his car, as winning this award was his last big challenge in life. Mark later on followed in his father’s footsteps and built in a short time an outstanding postal history collection of mail between Denmark and the United Kingdom. He was awarded Nordic Grand Prix and crowned it in Bucharest 2008 with an International FIP Grand Prix.

At the meeting in Monaco I told Peer that I would do my best, which led to very complicated negotiations lasting for three years and including three trips for me to Los Angeles. At the end we came to an agreement with the absolute conditions from the seller that all items should be sold at auction with guaranteed reserve prices for these three important items, while Postiljonen should for the rest of the collection put reasonable starting prices.

This resulted in three exceptional Denmark auctions in 1999 & 2000 and on 29 September 2000 this fantastic block of four was sold for the record price of €250 000 + commission.

Two FIP Grand Prix

Peer was happy and he could go on showing his collection now including more or less every important classic Danish rarity recorded, and I was delighted having the honor to congratulate him for winning the International Grand Prix in Madrid 2000 and after that the National Grand Prix at HAFNIA 2001 in Copenhagen, when he could show also this unique block.

At the time Peer asked and got my promise that this story should remain confidential and kept between the two of us. However, after some time he himself told some friends about it and later he also released me from that promise. I think at this occasion when the block is again changing hands in another Postiljonen auction, it is a good moment to share this amusing little story.

Claes Arnrup